20 years since Hurricane Opal made landfall on the Gulf Coast

Hurricane Opal made landfall October 4th, 1995. The eye of the storm made its way right over Pensacola, Florida.

In 1995, Opal is partially remembered for the last minute panic evacuation of over 100,000 people in the Florida panhandle.

36 hours before landfall, winds were near 90 mph.  The next day, morning of the landfall, winds were up to 150 mph, classifying it as a high category 4 storm.

Opal had intensified rapidly and surprised many people. Landfall was late in the day on October 4, 1995 along Pensacola Beach, Florida.

Opal’s wind was strong but it had diminished to 115 mph.


It was the most powerful hurricanes to strike the panhandle of Flordia in 20 years. Water levels rose 10 to 20 feet with damaging waves on top of that, hitting communities like Navarre, Fort Walton Beach, Destin, Niceville, and Miramar Beach hard. 20 foot sand dunes were knocked flat.

Over 3,000 structures were destroyed, and over 18,000 were damaged.  Half a million people lost power in the Florida panhandle.

Outside of the panhandle, over a million people in the southeast had no power for 2 days after the storm, many from trees that had fallen on power lines.

Opal happened in the same season as Hurricane Erin which also hit the panhandle and these storms seemed to lead the beginning of a decade along the gulf coast where hurricanes became more frequent.


At the time, Opal was the third most-costly hurricane to hit the us, but after so many major hurricanes after it, Opal no longer even ranks in the top ten.

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